Gov’t wants to speed up money-laundering law – Jagdeo

The government wants to fast-track the passage of the long delayed anti-money laundering legislation, which has been under review for nearly two years.

President Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday told a press briefing at State House that he has urged Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh to wrap up the discussions on the legislation at the level of the parliamentary select committee set up to review it.

The special select committee was created by the Parliament in June 2007 to examine the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Finance of Terrorism Bill, but only started work a year later. Dr. Singh is chair of the committee.

Jagdeo, who was answering a question about whether the country needs greater financial regulation, said the Bill has been at the select committee for too long. He noted that the older law has loopholes, particularly in the area of seizure of assets, which the new one is intended to plug. “As you move forward, you need to constantly evolve your national legislation,” he said.

The 2008 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report said the government needs to pass effective legislation to deal with money laundering, including provisions allowing forfeiture of seized assets. It added that money laundering is perceived to be a serious problem here and has been linked to trafficking in drugs, guns and persons as well as to fraud and corruption, however arrests have never been made nor has anyone been prosecuted.

Last December, the committee reviewing the proposed anti-money laundering law started its deliberations on the substantive provisions of the long-awaited legislation. “[The work] is not moving as fast as we would have wanted,” AFC MP Raphael Trotman, who is a member of the committee, told Stabroek News at the time. “We are now looking at ways to speed it up,” he, however, added.

The select committee has received several oral and written submissions from various stakeholders, including public institutions like the Bank of Guyana and the Guyana Association of Securities Companies and Intermediaries Inc and private citizens like accountant Christopher Ram.

The Bill provides for oversight of export industries, the insurance industry, real estate and alternative remittance systems.

It caters for the establishment of the Financial Intelligence Unit as an independent body answerable only to the President and strengthens it by giving it broader roles and responsibilities.

The new law is thought to be a significant improvement over previous anti-money laundering legislation, covering the freezing and forfeiture of assets owned or controlled by persons suspected of being involved in money laundering activities. President Jagdeo had given previous commitment to the passage of the law before the end of last year, saying that it was government’s intention to move forward with the legislation in a way that would facilitate Guyana becoming an offshore financial centre (OFC).

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